City commission selects mayor Pro Tem, adopts tax / rate increases

Commissioner Gail Johnson asks Feldman to make sure he doesn’t fire senior management


With very little discussion, the City of Gainesville Commission adopted its FY22 budget and associated utility rates and charges at its special meeting on September 23.

When adopting the agenda, Nathan Skop asked the committee not to just ‘stamp’ the articles, saying he has been monitoring the budget process for ten years: ‘I have attended the meetings that you used to stick to Ironwood. This year’s budget from both the municipal government and the GRU is a joke. There was no substantive discussion on budget items. There hasn’t been any discussion of how you could cut spending to avoid imposing huge rate hikes on low-income families who can’t pay the bills up front.

Skop continued: “But with regard to the adoption of the regular agenda, I think there should be a discussion that the [firefighters’ union] called for your resignation. I think the public is angry with the city commission. You don’t listen to the audience. You have a commissioner who grossly knocked over city employees and members of the collective bargaining unit, and none of you are prepared to hold her accountable or say anything. I think there should be a discussion of this committee as a whole, with the exception of the resignation of Desmon Duncan-Walker.

Members of the finance committee

The first item on the agenda was the selection of three Commissioners to sit on the new Finance Committee. The agenda item read: “At the General Policy Committee meeting on July 22, 2021, the Municipal Commission ordered that its rules be revised to split the existing Audit and Finance Committee (a standing committee created by the rules of the Commission) in two separate standing committees. as of January 1, 2022. However, the vote to adopt this resolution had not yet taken place; the committees were created later at the September 23 meeting.

The audit committee will always be the mayor and mayor pro Tem, as well as an expert in the matter. Commissioners Adrian Hayes-Santos, Reina Saco and Harvey Ward all quickly volunteered for the new finance committee.

Mayor Pro Tem

The next point was the selection of Mayor Pro Tem because Commissioner Gail Johnson, who recently resigned, is the current Mayor Pro Tem.

Ward was first recognized by Mayor Lauren Poe and said Commissioner David Arreola was unable to “perform the actual duties of Mayor Pro Tem for much of a normal term” in 2020; he proposed that Arreola be mayor Pro Tem.

Poe said that since the commissioners’ terms now end in January instead of May, the commission could “reconsider this in January and sort of get the commission on this annual cycle.”

Johnson said she thought protocol was for outgoing mayor Pro Tem to suggest who should be the new one. Poe said: “Usually it’s the oldest person who hasn’t held the job yet who wants the job” but there is no rule.

During the public comments, Skop said he had hoped Duncan-Walker would be the new Pro Tem mayor.

Johnson said: “I’m just going to express my disappointment because I really expected to come here today to make the suggestion on who I would like to see as mayor Pro Tem. And I thought that was the protocol of what we had done in the past, and that’s what I was prepared to do. And I am disappointed that it goes like this.

The motion to make Arreola Mayor Pro Tem passed 6-1, with Johnson at odds.

Increases in utility rates, fees and property taxes have all been approved

The ordinance fixing the schedule of tariffs, fees and charges for electricity, water, wastewater and standard operating charges included tariff increases for the next 7 years, and only Skop spoke of this point, reiterating that he had repeatedly presented them with options to avoid all rate increases.

The vote for the increases was 5-2, with Johnson and Desmon-Walker dissenting.

The next item, a long list of municipal fees, was also passed 5-2, with Johnson and Desmon-Walker dissenting.

The next item was the mileage of the property tax, a 6.82% increase over the reduced rate. In public comments, Skop drew attention to the repeated 5-2 votes: “Why do we constantly have 5-2 votes on these budget matters? Do you see the problem with that? Because we have two commissioners, Commissioner Johnson and Commissioner Duncan-Walker, who seem to care about low income families, hard-working Gainesville families, local businesses that don’t want to impose these excessive property tax increases. , these mileage rate increases, and the GRU rate increases over Gainesville. We cannot afford it. But here you are dabbing again.

Armando Grundy-Gomes also called out, “There is no reason to be relegated, ladies. Show some teeth. Don’t be pushed around. It’s good to vote no. It’s another to call it out for what it is – not just call it out, but show bite and take action. And guess what it is. Some people like to spend money without even telling you why. Understand it. Use the context. Don’t be relegated.

The property tax increase also went 5-2, with Johnson and Duncan-Walker dissenting.

The GRU’s budget for fiscal 2022 fell to 5-2, with Johnson and Duncan-Walker dissenting.

The general government budget for fiscal year 2022 was passed 5-2, with Johnson and Duncan-Walker dissenting.

Creation of funds for the prevention of evictions and assistance to public services

The next item was a resolution amending the FY21 budget, adding $ 500,000 for eviction prevention and assistance and $ 250,000 for assistance to people unable to pay their utility bills. Johnson said she would vote for it, but she didn’t think the $ 250,000 for utility assistance was enough and that she hoped more would be allocated as they discussed the use of funds from the American rescue plan. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

General public comments suggest traditional alignments may change

In general public comments, Tina Days praised Reverend Rawls and Nathan Skop: “You are fighting for the lower middle class, of which I am a part. And thank you for fighting alongside Commissioner Johnson and Commissioner Duncan-Walker. The two of you are the only one standing up for a single mom with three kids looking for all those tax hikes you just raised. That’s a shame. And like I said, I agree that they are progressive democrats, of which I was one. But I’m not anymore because you tax us all to death. And the only ones speaking are Commissioner Johnson and Commissioner Duncan-Walker, who I agree with Nathan Skop should be Mayor Pro Tem… We are watching and we will remember the next election. Just because I’m a Democrat doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for all Democrats. I watch what you do in the office. And right now, I guess out of five, three of you won’t get my vote.

Armando Grundy-Gomes said of City Manager Lee Feldman’s severance pay: “One of you on the committee last week got angry, looked at the mayor and said, really, we are we going to pay this guy? You can fix this problem. You all talk a lot. People have spoken and all of you have contributed a large sum of $ 113,000. And the only thing you can do now is always to give the middle finger to each resident instead of following and firing this municipal manager for cause… Mr. Mayor, I know that you have a lot of energy for people who are migrant workers and people who are Hispanic. It is very good. You have very little energy when it comes to black people… I think you can sort that out today. Gail, is asking for her dismissal for cause. Do not sit on the soap box.

Johnson asks Feldman to pledge not to fire top executives

After public comments, outgoing Commissioner Gail Johnson said she was concerned Feldman would fire senior officials in the City of Gainesville before his last day: “I want a public response from Director Feldman. Over the next seven weeks, I’m going to ask you very directly if you intend to lay off any senior executives from the town of Gainesville? “

Feldman replied, “The answer is no… I have no intention of letting anyone go.

Johnson then asked, “I know the immense power you hold in this seat until you leave. Do you intend to intentionally or intentionally harm or endanger the City while you are in this space? “

Feldman replied, “Absolutely not.”

Johnson then turned to the commission: “All six of you will be Manager Feldman bosses for the foreseeable future. And I’m just asking you to be careful and be aware. And to be aware that we are living through an incredibly turbulent and tumultuous time in the city. And to make sure we continue to do no harm. That’s all I ask.

Small thanks for Johnson’s last meeting

Duncan-Walker then congratulated Johnson “because on the very last day you chose to continue in the spirit of bravery and advocacy for this city that you have become known for. And so I say thank you for that … This has It has been a joy, a privilege and an honor to serve by your side these past few months. It has been a joy, a privilege and an honor to look at you before that. “

None of the other commissioners commented that this was Johnson’s last meeting. It is customary for the commission to have a “sine die” in which the commissioners are sent with speeches from other commissioners, former commissioners and members of the public at their final meeting, but this did not happen. not produced.

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